I love Middle Eastern food. I think I always have, but my experiences traveling and living abroad increased my appreciation of it. In the town I lived in in France, there was a Middle Eastern bakery and tea shop that had the most exquisite pastries and delicious cups of traditional mint tea. I would stop by often, especially nights when I went to the bar across the street. There’s nothing better than starting (or finishing) a night out with pastries.
Then, I traveled to Israel for the first time eight years ago and I got to try more dishes. I couldn’t believe that people actually ate hummus and vegetables for breakfast. I learned how to appreciate savory dishes more at any time of day, not just at lunch or dinner.
I also had my first Halloumi salad. I couldn’t decide what to order in Jerusalem at lunch one day, and so I copied what an Israeli scout chaperoning our trip ordered. She got a halloumi salad that was light and filling at the same time, full of fresh lemon juice and lots of greens and herbs.
Over the years, I kept making Halloumi salads but I’d add ingredients based on what was available or depending on my mood. Last night, I decided to make a Halloumi, date, and orange salad. I got the inspiration from “Zaitoun,” a cookbook by Yasmin Khan that features Palestinian cuisine. I just bought it and I want to make everything.
Khan features an appetizer-like dish with Halloumi, pomegranate seeds, dates, and oranges. Unfortunately I can’t find good pomegranates in St. Louis this time of year, so I decided to nix the pomegranate seeds and add pistachios instead. I also added fresh farmers’ market lettuce as a base and avocado. I kept the dates, because I can find those at specialty stores pretty much year-round.
If you don’t have a grill pan, you can use a regular frying pan for the Halloumi. Just make sure you watch the heat because frying cheese in hot oil can get precarious at times.
This salad is the perfect blend of flavors and textures. It’s crunchy with pistachios, salty with grilled Halloumi, sweet with dates, tangy with oranges, and it also gets a kick from the pomegranate molasses dressing. Now that I’m writing about it, I want to make it again.
Until then, I’ll leave you with this song and the recipe.
Halloumi, Date, and Orange Salad
2 small oranges, peeled and sliced into segments with no skin
2 handfuls of quality lettuce
1 small avocado
8 oz Halloumi, sliced
olive oil for pan plus 2 Tbsp for the dressing
1/2 cup pitted dates, sliced thin
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses for dressing
flaky sea salt for garnish
To make the salad, first peel your orange, cut it at the top and bottom, and use your knife to slice off the skin. Then split the interior into segments, so you’re left with little pieces of orange. Prepare the avocado by cutting it in half, removing the seeds, scooping out the inside with a spoon, and chopping it or slicing it (your choice).
Heat olive oil in a grill pan over medium heat. Add the slices of Halloumi and grill them for about 5-8 minutes, or until one side is evenly browned. Once one side is evenly browned, flip it to the other side and cook until it’s the same color. Remove all the Halloumi from the pan.
To assemble the salad, place lettuce on plates and top with avocado, oranges, Halloumi, dates, pistachios, and mint leaves. Whisk pomegranate molasses and olive oil and pour the dressing over the salad. Garnish with flaky sea salt. Enjoy!